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Thread: Why do common smells make us sick?

  1. #1
    Flashaholic* eebowler's Avatar
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    Icon15 Why do common smells make us sick?

    Hey guys. I'm sure I'm not the only one in the whole world who's affected by non-toxic smells. By non-toxic, I'm talking about common scents which isn't supposed to get people sick or arn't supposed to be gross. In my most recent case, I was in the computer lab at work for the night shift. One woman was there who left and returned about an hour later. She apparantly went upstairs to have a shower and whatever else. The woman put on some smell, either a perfume or cream or something. Within minutes of her returning to the lab, I was feeling nauseous and had a headache. I tolerated the smell for no more than 15 mins before running out of there. Of course, the perfume wasn't 'stink', since the people who designed it intended for it to make the human smell 'nicer' in some way. It however smelt terribly unplesant to me.

    Years ago, my mother got some cheap perfume from someone and I used to wear it to school. I wore it regularly until the bottle finished. (yes, I used to wear perfume to school. Damit! I was a kid.) A short while later when she got some more of the same thing, it made me nauseous and still does to this day.

    Another example is some hair product a woman from work had on one day. I IMMEDIATELY felt sick the first time she passed and for that whole day I spent my time holding my breath every time she came anywhere near me.

    Hair straightner is another IMMEDIATE trigger.The effect is so strong that the possabiliby of vomiting is VERY real. (BTW, vomiting is a rare event in my life.) I always hold my breath 20 ft before and 20 ft after a hair salon when walking down the road.

    The most common trigger is perfume. Things like dead dogs on the highway or rotting food or BO or all stink but they don't make me sick.

    Is anyone else affected by common scents that arn't supposed to be gross?

    Can anyone explain why?

    Thanks.

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    *Flashaholic* PhotonWrangler's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why do common smells make us sick?

    Not sure, but I know that there's a perfume out there that immediately sends me into an asthma attack! Whenever I have to walk past a perfume counter, I try not to breathe until I'm well out of range of the scents.

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    *Flashaholic* James S's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why do common smells make us sick?

    a lot of this, especially perfume connotations, are very psychological. Back in the 80's as a kid I caught the flu, and my mother had the bright idea of putting a splash of some cheap kid perfume my sister had around into the garbage can I had just finished throwing up into... The scent of it is forever connected at a visceral level in my head with being violently sick. Though the scent of it cannot now actually make me physically ill, it does try

    Friend of mine in college always got sick on the way down to breakfast in the morning, but never any other time of the day. The only difference was that in the morning they had just finished washing the floors in the basement and a very slight smell of bleach was concentrated in the stairwell. It gave him flashbacks to being miserable in the high school swim team. we were able to discover that only that sort of damp, echoey, combined with a chlorine smell would give him a real physiological response. Just bleach didn't do it, and just musty damp didn't do it, but the 2 together would!

    We're constantly programming our brains, unfortunately we dont come with instructions and we're carrying around a lot of random baggage Good thing that most of it can be categorized as interesting phenomenon rather than life changing issue...
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    Default Re: Why do common smells make us sick?

    I have the exact same reaction to perfume as you do. In fact, I always did. That includes the perfumes put in everything from soap to tissues these days, although the reaction isn't as strong as with straight perfume. My skin ends up red if I use any hand lotion with fragrance, for example. Needless to say, it's fragrance free everything for me. Allergic or not, I personally don't understand the obsession with adding scents to every product. Most of these products are either odorless or have inoffensive smells. Why must everything smell like flowers or pine or some other fake smell with a natural sounding name?

    Incidentally, the smell of real flowers (not fake flower smell perfume) doesn't bother me. In fact, I find it quite pleasant. It's way more subtle than the overpowering smell of perfume. Maybe that's why I dislike perfumes-the smell just hits you in the face.

  5. #5

    Default Re: Why do common smells make us sick?

    The problem here is assuming that perfumes and hair products are non-toxic. Not so!!!

    Commercial perfumes have (and may still) contained formaldehyde, benzene and other highly toxic carcinogens, allergens and irritants. It is in fact very common to have allergies and sensitivities to perfumes, and that's not even including the toxic variety which is bad for everyone. There are companies and even municipalities that have banned perfumes because they disrupt the work place. Progressive doctors involved in immunology as well as others ask that you not wear perfumes to office visits because they make people sick.

    Some people get so ill from perfumes they are forced to remain in clean air environments as some will even go into life threatening seizures from the smallest dose. One person's aroma therapy is another person's ...

    In the public eye perfume use will someday fall into a category similar to issues relating to second hand smoke. It's a selfish thing to wear perfume and in the future society may advance to the state to realize that assault through air pollution is just as much a physical reality as a punch in the face. In fact there have been prosecutions for criminals intentionally harming those they knew were allergic to perfume by exposing them to perfume. This included putting perfume on door handles etc. It's hard to realize your right to wear perfume since it lingers to the extent it will be there whenever you are in contact with people. I have just stood downwind from a woman with perfume on and two years later I could smell HER perfume in MY sweater. This stuff is made to stick around.

    You are probably most likely bothered by the cheap synthetic crap and perhaps organic perfumes mostly based on essential oils may not bother you.
    Last edited by Bogus1; 08-07-2006 at 11:18 PM.

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    *Flashaholic* IsaacHayes's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why do common smells make us sick?

    Some womens perfume is like breathing in mollasses or something to me. So thick and heavy, and smells kind of like gasoline. That's how it smells to me. It's just disgusting. Not sure what kind but after they leave the room the smell stays there for 1/2 hr at least. It does not smell nice at all. Smells like mothballs, gasoline, and toiletbowl cleaner. It does not smell like perfume to me. Maybe it's cheap stuff? But it's so strong and heavy and lasts I'm guessing it's not.

    Mostly it's older women that have that smell, and younger women wear something fruity or light and refreshing.

    But that's about the only smell other than "raw sewage" smells that gets me.
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    Flashaholic* elgarak's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why do common smells make us sick?

    I guess that most people (not only women -- I frequently encounter MEN stinking perfume against the wind) do not vary their perfume very often, thus need higher amounts to get the same smell impression. And I agree; most perfumes are definitely vomit inducing in overdose.

    Natural smells (sweat) do not have this effect on me. Yes, sometimes people stink -- but it's mostly tolerable, and sometimes even strangely pleasant -- on some women. Must be an animalistic sex pheromone type thingy, which is ironic, since this is what most perfumes try to emulate.

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    Flashaholic* turbodog's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why do common smells make us sick?

    The (almost invisible) scent of hot squirrel urine causes me to spectacularly vomit IMMEDIATELY. I don't even have enough time to fully turn my head.

    Yeah I know... where do you get SU?

    From accidentally ruptured squirrel bladders while you are skinning and gutting them.
    Last edited by turbodog; 08-08-2006 at 01:38 PM.
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    Flashaholic* greenlight's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why do common smells make us sick?

    MMMmmm.... Squirrel..... JK...

    I went to costco last week, and the whole place reeks of cinnamon buns, like they just baked a million of them. After a few minutes I started to feel ill from the smell, so sweet, after 1/2 hr, I don't know if I'll ever buy a cinnamon bun ever again.


    Don't even get me started on cigarettes....

    How about the smell of hot asphalt just after a light rain?

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    Flashaholic* Planterz's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why do common smells make us sick?

    I'm very sensitive to perfumes and similar scents. If it's strong enough I'll get a headache, but no nausea. Add this to the fact that most women have no idea how to wear perfume. It's supposed to be a faint, almost undetectable scent to intice us guys to want to get closer to you and smell it. Not to be applied liberally to cover up the stank of your skank.

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    Default Re: Why do common smells make us sick?

    I never had a problem until last year in one of my college classes. A guy came in and sat a few chairs over, and whatever kind of cologne he was wearing caused my eyes to water and my nose to burn. I almost had to leave the class.

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    Flashaholic* KC2IXE's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why do common smells make us sick?

    About 14 years ago, I worked for a "shall remain nameless" company. There was one nice young lady on the floor by the name of Liz - she wore what really was a nice perfume, but if she walked withing about 30 ft of me, I immediately got a massive alergic reaction (lavender will do that to me) - I'd start sneezing like you would NOT believe. The other guys really liked this, as Liz was good looking and single, so they used to call me "the Liz detector". It was not a real problem, as she worked almost a city block away

    One day, I happened to get on the elevator with her when she was wearing that perfume. Of course I started sneezing. She asked me if I was OK. I told her the truth - that I was alergic to that perfume. You know, she NEVER wore it again! She didn't wear a LOT of it either - other folks said they could not smell it unless they were very close to her - it's just that lilacs and lavender will do that to me (in the spring, I can tell you if I'm within a city block of a blooming lilac bush - or could, my alergies are less now)

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    Flashaholic Ras_Thavas's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why do common smells make us sick?

    I have reactions to most perfumes. Some immediately cause me to have an extreme sinus headache.

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    Flashaholic* eebowler's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why do common smells make us sick?

    James: Your examples seem, to be one of association. I understand it and somewhat experience it but I believe it's different from my situation. My similar experience: We have cats. They are free to roam wherever they want. The tom cats fight. Simon usually dissapears for days and returns home with his face full of holes and maggots in the holes. We would then be forced to use black disinfectant to clean out his wounds and remove the maggots. The smell of the disinfectant technically is tollerable but in my brain, I alwayse associate it with maggot soup (that's how it looks) and rotting flesh and feel more upset than I should.

    eg2: when my grandmother died and was burnt, (hindu custom which I know nothing about,) they put some strange smelling 'gum' or whatever in the fire. I don't remember the burning body smelling but I do remember the smells they added. There is a perfume 'chloe' which smells very similar to the gum and it annoys the hell out of me when anyone passes with it on simply because it smells like death to me. It doesn't make me sick either or at least I don't think so.

    jtr: Wow, that's extreem. For you it sounds like an allergy. How do you deal with the smell of ink? I don't ever get red or itch or wheez but it really may be an allergy since I have asthma and other allergies and may be predisposed to such reactions.

    I don't react to all perfumes. There are many out there which smell woderful. I love light fruity, citrus and even flowery scents. Celine Deon, Cool water, Georgio Armani, sunflower something. White diamond is a faimilar, comfortable smell but it isn't the greatest.

    Bogus: you're right, hair relaxer is probably toxic but then, why do I react and the many thousands of women who get their hair straightned don't?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bogus
    It is in fact very common to have allergies and sensitivities to perfumes, and that's not even including the toxic variety which is bad for everyone
    Sounds about right.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bogus
    You are probably most likely bothered by the cheap synthetic crap and perhaps organic perfumes mostly based on essential oils may not bother you.
    That's most likely correct also.

    Isaac: lol. I've never come across perfumes smelling like mothballs or toilet bowl cleaner (though the latter does smell better than a lot of perfumes) but, I've smelt perfumes (espensive ones) that smell like 'tick tacks' and nothing more. Others smell like chewing gum and even jam. lol.

    elgarak: Somehow, I usually don't have as much problems with men's perfumes/colognes. They generally have a sharper smell which isn't likely to induce nausea.

    turbodog: LMAO. The smell of the urine from male domestic cats gets to me but not that bad...Thanks for the heads-up. I'll try not to squish any squirrels while mushing through the bush.

    Planterz: Yeah, many people do not know how to wear perfume. They think it's some sort of second shower or deodorant or something and bathe in it.
    Last edited by eebowler; 08-08-2006 at 12:42 PM.

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    Default Re: Why do common smells make us sick?

    Quote Originally Posted by Planterz
    I'm very sensitive to perfumes and similar scents. If it's strong enough I'll get a headache, but no nausea. Add this to the fact that most women have no idea how to wear perfume. It's supposed to be a faint, almost undetectable scent to intice us guys to want to get closer to you and smell it. Not to be applied liberally to cover up the stank of your skank.
    That last sentence made me crack up!

    I can't wear cologne at all, even the smallest amount makes me feel ill after 15 minutes or so and I have to go shower and change my clothes. It's odd because I've dealt with some NASTY smells, the kind of thing where you have to sniff water afterward to get it out of your nose, with no problems. My wife occasionaly uses some vanilla scented perfume, but very very lightly. If I'm not in kissing distance I won't smell it. I think it's called Heaven Sent, and I think it's natural too. Good stuff.


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    Flashaholic* eebowler's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why do common smells make us sick?

    Yeah Desiel, I've had experiences (some of those above) where the stink stains my sinuses long after the source leaves.

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    Default Re: Why do common smells make us sick?

    Bogus1 is right! "The problem here is assuming that perfumes and hair products are non-toxic. Not so!!!"

    Even the ones that are not literally toxic can trigger allergies and asthma in sensitive individuals. I have an almost instant asthma attack from many fragrances, and I have measured the decrease in my respiratory capacity when this has happened.

    Halifax, Nova Scotia has banned fragrances in public places; you can get fined for wearing a perfume.

    --Walter

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    Default Re: Why do common smells make us sick?

    Quote Originally Posted by eebowler
    jtr: Wow, that's extreem. For you it sounds like an allergy. How do you deal with the smell of ink? I don't ever get red or itch or wheez but it really may be an allergy since I have asthma and other allergies and may be predisposed to such reactions.
    Ink doesn't bother me a bit. I have no problem refilling my printer cartridges. You're right that it may be an allergy of sorts, but probably to things in the aromatic hydrocarbon family. I suspect this because about 13 years ago when I was having a temporary crown molded the next day my mouth was full of sores. The material used to make the temporary crown had a sweet, perfumy smell to it. Maybe if there's any dentists here they know exactly what the compound is. Anyway, when my dentist mentioned the molecular family, something clicked and I said that it was similar to fragrances, all of which bother me.

    I'm also very sensitive to other things in the aromatic hydrocarbon family such as auto exhaust. The strange thing is the smell of gasoline doesn't bother me too much (I've degreased bike parts in gasoline many times with no ill effects) but burn that same gas in a car and it makes me feel like vomiting, even in minute quantities. This is one reason I intensely dislike car travel. No matter if the windows are closed and the AC is good, enough trace of auto exhaust makes it into the passenger compartment to make me ill after about 20 minutes. Combining this with the typical leather/vinyl/plastic smells in cars just makes it worse. The one time I was on a plane I had a similar reaction. Basically I avoid any mode of transportation which burns fuel for power, although gasoline fumes tend to bother me much more than diesel fumes.

    I personally feel society is finally coming to some enlightenment on perfumes. Halifax did a good thing banning fragrances in public places. I'd like to see them banned in work places as well. I'd also like to see laws prohibiting adding fragrances to products (unless of course the product is the fragrance itself).

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    Flashaholic* eebowler's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why do common smells make us sick?

    When I was younger, the smell gasoline used to cure my headaches. lol. I now believe they were hunger headaches.

    Vehicle exhaust only gets to me when I'm suffering from motion sickness. Desiel fumes are the worst! Other than that, it just annoys the heck out of me.

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    Flashaholic* greenlight's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why do common smells make us sick?

    Can anyone actually SMELL their own nose? I think I can.

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    *Retired* The_LED_Museum's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why do common smells make us sick?

    The only common odours that can cause me to become ill are poo-poo and puke.

    O, and I forgot to add that the perfume called "White Linen" really stinks - pee you!!!
    It smells like used douches to me, not like perfume or some other pleasant scent.
    Last edited by The_LED_Museum; 08-14-2006 at 07:28 AM.

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    Flashaholic* Jumpmaster's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why do common smells make us sick?

    Quote Originally Posted by eebowler
    Desiel fumes are the worst!
    That's funny...I like Diesel fumes because it reminds me of JET-A fumes which reminds me of skydiving and other happy things...

    JM-99

  23. #23
    Flashaholic* D@rk Messenger's Avatar
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    Sick2 Re: Why do common smells make us sick?

    cigarette smoke just makes me want to die , I get bad headaches and occasionally feel like vomitting, I don't think this needs an explanation.
    All started with a streamlight keymate...CPF, NOW LOOK WHAT YOU HAVE DONE!...embarking on the journey for a real light...better than surefire ...making pathetic attempt searching for the ultimate aa cough-cree cough cough ion cough

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    Default Re: Why do common smells make us sick?

    like old lady perfume that takes your breath away and makes you talk funny....

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    Flashaholic* greenlight's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why do common smells make us sick?

    Quote Originally Posted by D@rk Messenger
    cigarette smoke just makes me want to die , I get bad headaches and occasionally feel like vomitting, I don't think this needs an explanation.
    How about outside smoking sections where the smoke is sucked into the building anyway? Might as well just smoke inside.

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    Flashaholic* cyberhobo's Avatar
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    Sick2 Re: Why do common smells make us sick?

    All chemicals make me ill. Cigarette smoke, burning trash (rubber, plastics) tops the list along with barf bags. Oh, and stinky feet.
    Last edited by cyberhobo; 08-14-2006 at 02:41 AM.
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    Default Re: Why do common smells make us sick?

    I don't have the issue with perfume, but I have the same problem when it comes to certain brand new out of the plastic products. I remember I bought a desk fan a few months ago, pulled it out of the box and the plasticky smell immediately made me nauseous. Had to lay down for a while after that....

  28. #28

    Default Re: Why do common smells make us sick?

    Quote Originally Posted by maverick
    I don't have the issue with perfume, but I have the same problem when it comes to certain brand new out of the plastic products. I remember I bought a desk fan a few months ago, pulled it out of the box and the plasticky smell immediately made me nauseous. Had to lay down for a while after that....

    Outgassing at it's finest. I'm sorry that you had such a strong reaction. Some people have problems with new cars because the paints, rubbers, plastics, adhesives, etc. are still outgassing. I have a couple of good friends; the feminine side is just can't stand to be in my new('06) Scooby. Usually she doesn't have such a problem, but at the moment she's 8 3/4 months pregnant. Probably for the better, it doesn't exactly have a smooth ride.


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  29. #29
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    Default Re: Why do common smells make us sick?

    The number of people here with chemical sensitivities is surprising to me. Most of those mentioned trigger my asthma.

    Diesel_Bomber said: "Outgassing at it's finest. ... Some people have problems with new cars because the paints, rubbers, plastics, adhesives, etc. are still outgassing." Sometimes you can see the stuff deposited on the car windshield. Some car manufacturers are doing something about this and are using materials that minimize outgassing. -- some Toyota and Honda models and probably other brands. I think there's a name and a standard to meet before you can use the name -- 'Cars that don't poison gas you' or some such.

    --Walter

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    Flashaholic* eebowler's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why do common smells make us sick?

    green: I believe you. I regularly smell my face grease.

    jumpmaster: you SKYDIVE! Wow! I NEED to do that at least once before i die! I dream of doing a BASE jump off of Angel Falls Venezuela!

    The stinky perfume I gave in the first example in post one is either Charlie or some even more nasty variation of it. My sister-in-law had on Charlie this morning and it stank the same but wasn't strong enough to make me sick.

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